Meet Mr. Newton, the Lens Behind Our New Street Style Series

Eddie Newton–the photographer behind the street style must-read Mr. Newton–has made a career out of capturing the best-dressed women in the world, from the Indio desert to the Paris streets, and today he’s lending his discerning eye to GILT. We’ve enlisted his lens to capture a different trend each month, starting with the season’s hottest color combo, black and white. Head over to the sale to check out his photos and shop products inspired by them, then read our exclusive interview.

SF: What sparked your interest in street style photography?
EN: When New York Fashion Week was in Bryant Park, I was DJ-ing fashion shows and would shoot photos during rehearsals and during downtime. I’d shoot the models goofing around, the stylists, the production assistants – all the cool girls who were working on the shows. At the same time, I was also shooting lots of photos at parties like Misshapes and Ruff Club – parties that attracted a fashion-obsessed crowd. Even though I was shooting at parties, I wasn’t really shooting party photos – it was always about finding the coolest girls with the best outfits and asking if I could shoot them solo. Also, I would see mood boards with street photography images at the studios of the fashion designers I was DJ-ing for – not purely street style, more like images ripped out of lifestyle-ish travel magazines or an old book about Paris. My girlfriend at the time – who was a fashion designer and illustrator – said, “I think you should shoot street style”.

SF:  Street style photographers have become fashion world celebs in their own right…and are kind of 2013′s answers to Patrick Demarchelier and Mario Testino. What do you think your collective legacy will be when we look back on fashion history?
EN: In many ways, I’m only doing this for the legacy aspect – this is very important to me. We are capturing styles that seem quite normal now but that will look really strange and cool in 20 or 30 years – not to mention in 100 years! Also, the cities where we are shooting are going through radical changes as the mom-and-pop business model is dismantled and chains are taking over. So the clothes, the hairstyles, the cars, the buildings, the young faces – we are documenting all of this in our photographs whether we intend to or not. Our fashion industry-specific legacy might be that we made things more democratic…that we kicked down a few doors and made a previously elitist industry somewhat less elitist. But to me, our real legacy is a cultural legacy. This is particularly true for those of us who got into the game early – we have thousands of photos that no one else has.

SF: What is the ideal combination of factors you look for when photographing someone? Is there a particular item or outfit you will always find exciting? A particular item or outfit you will never shoot?
EN: I mostly prefer to photograph women who keep things pretty simple and classic. I love denim…I love a classic trench coat…I like simple hats…I’m into bohemian/Coachella/West Coast style…I love that “what, this old thing?” look that Parisiennes do so well…I love the look of the women who come to the Ralph Lauren show in New York…the beach-meets-metropolis looks that you find in Sydney or Montauk are ideal for me too.

A particular item that I will always find exciting is the perfect pair of vintage denim cut-offs! haha I suppose I should aim higher than that, but why be pretentious? Birkin or Bardot walking on the beach at Biarritz in 1971 with denim cut-offs, a loose white blouse, and a floppy felt hat – that sort of look is always exciting for me.

There is virtually nothing that I would say I “never” shoot. It’s important to always keep an open mind as a street style photographer. Unlike with a studio shoot, you are constantly seeing new things and making new discoveries – to approach things too rigidly would be counterproductive. That said, I rarely shoot really crazy, costume-y looks. In Tokyo for example, I’ll head to Daikanyama and shoot low-key Japanese kids wearing A.P.C. – and mostly shy away from the suburban kids peacocking in Harajuku.

SF: Who is your favorite subject of all time?
EN: Stylish mystery girls who I shoot one time and then never see again. I have lots of photos like this. There’s an intrigue and timelessness about these images that gets ruined if you learn the girl’s name or what she does for a living or where she lives or other details.

SF: Who is more exciting to photograph – an A-list celeb in a decent outfit, or a nobody in a killer one?
EN: It’s all about the stylish nobodies for me. I don’t find most celebrities very interesting or stylish. I like it when they roll through at fashion week though – they draw most of the other photographers away and I can then often grab a quick photo or two of a great girl that no one spotted!

SF: Who or what are your biggest artistic influences?
EN: Evelyn Nesbit, Helmut Newton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Debbie Harry, Terry Richardson, Andy Warhol, Weegee, Diane Arbus, Gloria Guida, Jane Birkin, the archive at Gallagher’s Paper Collectibles, the old Times Square, gritty movies shot in New York in the 70′s and 80′s… 

SF: Do you see street style trends subsequently reflected on the runway?
EN: Absolutely. It’s a two-way street – the street influences the runway and the runway influences the street. It’s always been this way. Before the rise of the street style blogs, trend forecasting companies were sending photographers around to photograph street style trends. Shooting street style for a trend forecasting company was how I got my start professionally. Prior to that, you had Bill Cunningham shooting street style for The New York Times and fashion houses like Dior employed their own photographers to shoot street looks. I’m sure that before cameras were easily portable, fashion designers were sitting outdoors at cafes making notes and sketches of passersby.

SF: Photographers have become such an essential part of fashion week. Do you think it’s a positive or a negative that people are now dressing for the cameras?
EN: The only sense in which it’s a negative thing is that street style is my work…and you want your work to have value…and street style has the most value when you’re photographing someone’s actual daily style…rather than a costume donned for a special occasion. As a documentarian, you’re always looking to visit the village unannounced…rather than having a marching band meet you at the airport. The various fashion weeks these days require an adjustment in thinking – which is, “I have the rest of the year to be a documentarian, but now it’s time to have fun at fashion week!” There are great girls with great outfits, shows, parties, store openings – there’s always something interesting to shoot at fashion week. But yeah, it’s closer these days to a roadblocked week-long awards show…rather than a low-key industry event where you can find undiscovered street style gems.

SF: How can you tell if a woman has true style or is just showing off for the photographers?
EN: You can just tell – it’s usually pretty obvious. The ones with really great personal style are obvious to me and other street style photographers who have been doing this for a while. The ones who are way over-the-top and trying too hard are obvious too. Then there’s a middle group – most of whom have great personal style – who are dressed perhaps in a somewhat more outre fashion than they might be on a normal Tuesday. This is great. I view this middle group as wanting to dress like this all the time but only feeling like they have free reign to do so during the fashion weeks. Some of the members of this middle group are surely dressing for the photographers – but also for themselves and for their friends, co-workers, and…everyone! Fashion Week is their time to shine. I think it’s sweet.

See Mr. Newton’s exclusive photos for GILT–and shop the sale inspired by them now!


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